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Yishu Wang

Work / Photography

Yishu Wang’s wonderfully disorientating photography

Yishu Wang’s photography is bound to make you stop, look, look again and finally admit that you have no clue what’s going on. From overview shots of hundreds of uniformed men dressed in red suits to Orwellian CCTV structures, Yishu’s portfolio is wonderfully disorientating. Based in Wuzhen, a scenic town near Shanghai, Yishu has worked as a top photojournalist in Chinese media for the past 15 years. His job has offered Yishu endless opportunities to travel extensively across China from large metropolises to remote villages, documenting what he sees as he goes. “Many viewers have told me that my photography is similar to literature in that the images seem to have plots. But when I was taking the photos, I wasn’t thinking about narratives. I was just relaxed and receptive to any scenario that came my way,” Yishu tells It’s Nice That.

Yishu’s approach to photography is open-minded; instead of travelling with a specific aim in mind, the photographer allows his everyday experiences to dictate his creative output. “I consider photography to be free of restrictions, both in its execution and in its subject matter. I don’t care much about finding a specific ‘theme’ or a ’story’ to uncover. Everything I see is my subject matter,” the photographer says. Yishu’s series Borderless, for example, captures random moments that caught his attention while travelling both in China and abroad. The artist never intended for Borderless to be a social commentary — he expresses a wish that photography should be more “fluid and open to interpretation” rather than fixed in specific contexts — yet, the overwhelming presence of security cameras and group shots of friends dressed in coordinated outfits hints at an overly-scrutinised and homogenised world.

“My experience is that a photographer should act on their impulsive feelings and take pictures spontaneously. But I sometimes take time out to compose photographs carefully. I have always liked to look at paintings. I like Paul Cézanne, Édouard Manet, Willem De Kooning and many other artists,” Yishu explains. That Yishu acts on instinct comes as no surprise: his photographs are characterised by enigmatic scenes populated by unconventional characters. In this way, Yishu hands the reigns to the viewer and allows them to draw their own conclusions and create their own narratives about the content of his work. “A photograph is one person’s outlook on the world. I hope my photographs can be looked at over and over again and that the viewer extracts something different from them every time.”

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Yishu Wang